Loading articles...

B.C. party leaders face off in first debate without fireworks

Last Updated Oct 14, 2020 at 5:40 am PDT


The leaders of B.C.'s three main political parties took to the debate stage for the only televised debate

Major segments included COVID-19 pandemic recovery, cost of living and housing, climate targets, and social issues

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — In their one and only televised opportunity to convince British Columbians who they should vote for in the upcoming election, the province’s main party leaders took to the debate stage without delivering any knock out punches Tuesday.

The debate between NDP Leader John Horgan, Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson, and Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau was, of course, unlike previous years with physical distancing protocols in place and no handshakes between the leaders.

The Angus Reid Institute’s Shachi Kurl moderated and set the tone heading into the debate, instructing the leaders to answer the questions asked and not speak over one other, saying “I don’t want to interrupt you, but I will if I have to.”

RELATED: #BCVotes2020: First B.C. leaders’ debate of the election campaign

With some direct questions from Kurl and opportunities for the leaders to ask questions of each other, the NDP and Liberals mostly held steady on their platforms, asserting their plan is best, with some back and forth and speaking over one another.

Major segments included COVID-19 pandemic recovery, cost of living and housing, climate targets, and social issues. The latter included racism and inclusion, homelessness, and the opioid crisis.

And while there weren’t any major surprises delivered by the party leaders, the newest among them made her mark by flipping the script.

While many social media posts narrowed in on the successful moderating of Kurl, Furstenau’s handling of the debate didn’t go unnoticed. This was particularly true after a personal question on racism, with each leader asked to give a response on how they reckon with their privilege as white politicians amid growing conversations about the treatment of BIPOC individuals.

RELATED: B.C. party leaders asked to address their privilege as white politicians

Horgan and Wilkinson were almost immediately called out for missing the mark, while Fustenau’s response took a different approach.

“We aren’t all equal. I wish we were,” she said. “But we’re not, in this province, in this country, and around the world. People who are Black, people who of colour are still experiencing systemic and personal racism on a daily basis.”

Read more about party platforms:

Who do you want to lead through pandemic?

While they may not agree on policy, both the Liberal and NDP leaders asked who British Columbians trust to lead the province through the COVID-19 crisis.

“It’s going to take effective, competent leadership to build British Columbia back up again to make it a place we’re proud of,” Wilkinson said. “We will beat this virus, we will do it because we’re really good at what we do.”

Horgan pointed to the party’s COVID-19 benefit and said, “I believe the job of premier is to work for you. I believe that we have a place in place that will do just that.”

Wilkinson called out Horgan for calling the election in the first place, while Horgan took a shot at the Liberal’s plan, which he argued will cut services.

But Furstenau pushed for partisanship and collaboration instead.

“The best thing in this election is not to hand power to any single party but to ensure that we have the kind of collaboration and cooperation that puts the people and their needs first,” she said.

A change in voting 

Heading into the election during the COVID-19 pandemic was addressed during the debate, as the Green leader also called Horgan out for the decision.

Furstenau pointed out the success of the NDP and the Greens working together across party lines to put concerns first.

“We should have been doing more of that, we had another year to continue doing that,” she said.

Horgan once again defended his decision, saying British Columbians deserve to have a choice.

But the debate also carries more weight than it might have in previous elections. It comes at a time when the province has seen more than 680,000 requests for mail-in ballots, and with a week of advanced polls starting Thursday, it’s likely most British Columbians will be casting their votes before Oct. 24.

Miss the debate? Watch it here:

For more on party promises and the latest election news, check out our B.C. Votes 2020 page.